Unions take Qantas to High Court over JobKeeper “wage theft”

Canberra, Australia - March 10, 2020: Ground-level external view of the High Court of Australia building, characterized by a large inscribed granite sign on the site

Unions have taken Qantas to the High Court over its alleged misuse of JobKeeper, after the airline won an appeal against a ruling that it would have to back pay hundreds of workers.

In September last year, the Fair Work Commission sided with the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) and the Australian Services Union, agreeing Qantas had been gaming the JobKeeper scheme.

The unions argued in court that the airline refused to pay workers for public holidays, weekends, overtime work and allowances by standing workers down for the rest of their pay period and manipulating the pay system so workers only receive the basic JobKeeper payment of $1,500 per fortnight.

Meanwhile, Qantas argued that payments made in arrears to workers for doing overtime should be counted against the JobKeeper payments.

However, in December, the Full Federal Court overturned the ruling, agreeing with Qantas that payments made to workers should be counted against JobKeeper payments.

On Wednesday, the Australian Services Union (ASU), the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) and the Flight Attendants’ Association of Australia (FAA) sought leave to appeal the landmark judgement.

“Qantas has been engaging in wage theft, refusing to pay workers fairly and battling them through the courts,” TWU assistant national secretary Nick McIntosh said.

“Senior Qantas management are back to paying themselves millions of dollars while Qantas workers aren’t even being paid properly for the work they are doing and are being denied the sick leave they are entitled to.

“The federal government and the Qantas board are refusing to hold them to account over this but workers are taking a stand.”

TWU assistant national secretary Nick McIntosh

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) secretary Sally McManus said the unions’ stance was about getting justice for Qantas workers.

“Workers should be paid for the work they do,” she said.

“Qantas is forcing workers to work public holidays, weekends and overtime and then effectively denying them overtime and other penalties they have earned.

“Workers are standing up to Qantas over this injustice and will take the case all the way to the High Court.”

However, Qantas said in a statement unions were wasting their members’ money and the airline’s money in the middle of a crisis by taking the case to the High Court.

“The court found we are administering JobKeeper as the government intended, and we have always made JobKeeper payments according to advice from the Australian Tax Office,” the airline said.

“There are tens of thousands of small and big businesses that, like Qantas, have been severely impacted by COVID-19, that have been making JobKeeper payments in the same way as we have.

“This legal action creates further uncertainty for these businesses at the worst possible time.”

In November, Qantas also won an appeal in the federal court against furloughed workers seeking to be paid sick leave.

The workers, including a man who has been battling cancer and another with heart disease both with over 30 years work at Qantas, alongside the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU), took the case to court in April after the airline refused to pay them sick leave during the stand-down period.

The airline won the case in May, with the Federal Court ruling it would not have to pay sick leave to furloughed workers.

Featured image source: iStock/Grant Thomas

Email the Travel Weekly team at traveldesk@travelweekly.com.au

    Latest comments
    1. … i swear to god… i don’t understand how that jobkeeper payment works… i’m a full time worker and what i know i’ve been stood down, ok that’s not clear either… but i wasn’t working at all but still getting paid my full wages weekly…. what i understand therefore is that my wage is partially subsidised by the jobkeeper payment… the report above is not very clear about the payments to workers so i could hardly say whether qantas pay cheats its workers or not… ok, if the taxation office and government agency say qantas is doing the right payment thing, like paying sdtood down workers nothing on top of the $1500 then was my employer wrong about my pay in full all these months…. i just hope not… also, this comment box, can you make it at least 3lines bigger so it is easier for me to review my comment before posting… this is a feedback not a complaint… thank you..

allowances appeal Australian Council of Trade Unions australian services union Fair Work Commission Flight Attendants Association of Australia JobKeeper Nick McIntosh overtime work public holidays qantas Sally McManus Transport Workers Union unions weekends

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